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Renovations at 2 St. Paul (Minn.) schools will delay upgrades at other campuses

March 10, 2021
The district has plans to spend $80 million to renovate Ramsey Middle School and Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy.

The St. Paul (Minn.) school district is moving forward with two costly construction projects and delaying several others following an external review of its facilities work.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that a new five-year construction schedule calls for renovations estimated at $49.8 million for Ramsey Middle School and $31 million for Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy.

The district’s previous facilities plan, approved by the board in October 2018, estimated the Ramsey project would cost $23.5 million and Jie Ming $6.5 million.

Board member John Brodrick said such significant cost increases make him “uneasy” about the district’s ability to pay for other important construction work.

“We’re going to have a lot of disappointed people across the district,” he said.

The district in 2016 increased its yearly construction budget to $112 million to upgrade aging schools. But the renovations and mechanical system upgrades have cost far more than first expected, forcing the district to postpone several projects.

The new construction schedule comes with no significant reordering of capital projects. However, several are being postponed again, partly because the district is engaged in strategic planning around how it wants to use its buildings in the future.

Jie Ming, formerly Homecroft Elementary, underwent a minor renovation in 2018 when the immersion program moved in. The renovation will provide additional classrooms to accommodate a popular program that draws more open-enrolled students than any other elementary. Other improvements: a new gym floor, mechanical system upgrades, and a new cafeteria and kitchen.

Ramsey, built in 1924, is in the worst condition of any school in the district, according to a facilities condition assessment. 

It is slated to get major drainage work to remedy water problems, as well as new stairs, a parking lot, fencing, lights and extensive mechanical system improvements, including a new HVAC system.

Inside, the renovation will bring a new entrance and administrative offices, new restrooms and lockers, new gym floor and reconfigured classrooms.

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